Jul 18

Tassie top of the pops

Cheers: Devonport’s Nikita Hillier gets into the spirit ahead of new year celebrations with a bottle of Tassie sparkling. Picture: Phillip BiggsOne of the finestways to toast in the new year is with a glass of award-winning North-West sparkling wine.
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Tasmania hasbecomerecognised for being top of the pops when it comes to producing some of the world’s best sparkling wines.

Although there are fewer vineyards on the Coastthisregion has producedsome greatsparklings.

Barringwood Vineyard has just beenrecognised this week for havingthe best sparkling at the Taste of Tasmania food festival.

Other award-winning sparkling winesproduced in the North-West include Ghost Rock Vineyard’sCatherine and Lake Barrington Vineyard’sAlexandra.

Lake Barrington is one of the oldest vineyards in Tasmania – established in 1984 by well-knownmedico Roger Taylor and his wife Maree with Alexandra named after their daughter.

The vineyard,purchased in 2005 by Charles and Jill Macek,specialises in sparkling wine.

Meantime,Tasmanian sparkling wine has been heralded for having a breakthrough year in 2016.

According toBrand Tasmania the year was a stellar one based onthe comments ofaward-winning wine critic, Tyson Stelzer, whotold the2016 Effervescence Festival it wastime for Tasmania to be more vocal about the state’ssparkling wines.

“It’s the best of the best,”Mr Stelzer said in the Brand Tasmania newsletter.

“In Australiathere are no sparkling wines that are better than what’s coming out of Tasmania…Tasmanian sparkling wine, by every measure, eclipses everything coming from the mainland.”

Mr Stelzer told Brand Tasmania there wasa 70 per centrise in Tasmanian sparkling production this year, and volume was up 140 per centover two vintages.

“I suspect we might be entering a golden era for Tasmanian sparkling: a time when these wines are recognised, as they should rightfully be recognised, as some of the greatest sparkling wines in the southern hemisphere,” he said.

According to Wine Tasmania about 4.6 million bottles of sparkling wine wereproduced this year,up from 2.7 million in 2015.

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Jul 18

Happy Friday, Tassie | December 30, 2016

Vibestown promise spectacular Royal Eve eventTasmania’s news headlinesLaunceston weatherFriday will bepartly cloudy with a slight chance of rain in the morning. Northwesterly winds are expected to reach 30km/h. A maximum of 25 degrees.
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The UV Index is predicted to reach 13, which is extreme. Sun protection should be worn from 9am to 5.50pm.

Northern snapshot35 minor crasheson Wednesday:Police were kept busy on the road on Wednesday.

Star Bar put on the market:One of Launceston’s most popular bars is up for sale.

State’s bikie war rages on:Deputy Commissioner Scott Tilyard weighs in on outlaw motorcycle gangs in Tasmania.

A Big Night for the little guys in Launceston to Hobart:Jeff Cordell and his Mumm36B&G Advantage were the first to get the building easterly just before dawn.

Pic by @doupishousi in Sydney.

Regional newsLAUNCESTON | Falls pill-testing trial pushHarm Reduction Australia says Tasmania could offer a pill-testing service at Falls Festival as a trial that other states could follow.

The organisation’s president, Gino Vumbaca, said he would love to see Tasmania lead the way on the issue, which has been a hot topic nationwide in the lead-up to festival season.

Harm Reduction Australia wants Tasmania to lead the nation in a festival pill-testing trial. Picture: Scott Gelston

ULLADULLA |South Coast men face court after biggest cocaine bust in Australian historyTwo South Coast men are among 15 arrested in connection to an alleged multi-million dollar drug syndicate importing cocaine via Sydney’s iconic fish markets and other NSW ports.

Michael Pirrello, 33, and Francesco Pirello, 39, were arrested in Ulladulla and refused bail in Nowra Local Court on Thursday.

AFP officers stand guard over some of the 500kilo cocaine seized during the Christmas Day bust. Picture: Kate Geraghty

BENDIGO | Victoriabracingfor January 1 power price hikeVictorians could pay an average of $230 a year more for their combined electricity and gas bills in 2017 as a price hike comes into effect from January 1.

Consumers are being urged to shop around to avoid price gouging, with the bulk of the electricity price rise blamed on the looming closure of the Hazelwood power station.

Expect to pay more.

BALLARAT | Region’s road toll highest in 20 yearsRoad authorities are making a last minute New Year plea to drivers to stop the region’s road toll, which is the worst in 20 years, from further increasing.

This year the combined Ballarat, Moorabool, Hepburn and Pyrenees government arearecorded 21 road fatalities –more than four times higher than in 2015.

Be safe, plead police.

TAMWORTH | First buskers arrive in country music capitalFrom the Kimberley to Tamworth. Pete Brandy and John Till of BackRoadshave arrived in Tamworth before the Country Music Festivalto sink their teeth into Tamworth’s city’s music atmosphere.

With just over 20 days to go until the big event kicks off, Brandy said locals could check out BackRoads in the city’s main street, and he invited them to come along and listen to the traditional styles of country music including Johnny Cash and Noel Haggard.

Pete Brandy from the Kimberley with David Alexander of Cheapa Music in Tamworth on Thursday. Photo: Simon McCarthy

NOWRA | Sharks swarm Hyams BeachA NSW Department of Primary Industries helicopter took an amazing aerial photograph of a large number of whaler sharks on Thursday. The twitter account @NSWSharkSmarttweeted a picture of 17 whaler sharks in shallow water off Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay about 9:30am.

A aerial photograph of 17 whaler sharks in shallow water at Hyams Beach. Photo: Twitter – @NSWSharkSmart

Just because …You’ve been at work all week? Be like this on Friday:

https://t.co/lU7dnkhuJrpic.twitter南京夜网/azDGPLBNjm

— The Ministry of GIFs (@GIFs) December 29, 2016National newsJulie Bishop backs Israel rather than the US over UN resolution

Australia has broken ranks with the United States and New Zealand over Israel, indicating that it would most likely have opposed the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israelisettlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Julie Bishop said the government had ”consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel”. Photo: Andrew Meares

January 1 price rises and benefit cuts: what you need to know

They say life can change in an instant. Never is that more true than when the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Along with hangovers and dark circles under their eyes, Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, charges, changed regulations and reduced benefits.

Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, changed regulations and reduced benefits. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Federal government spends record amount on digital advertising

The federal government spent a record amount on digital advertising in Australia last financial year, with growth in spending on new platforms outpacing all traditional media except for television.

Spending to promote the Turnbull government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda cost $14.9 million. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

National weather radarInternational newsIndonesian police point to Islamic State after 2016 spike in terrorism cases

Indonesia’s police chief has attributed a sharp rise in the number of alleged terrorists handled by his force to the influence of Islamic State and the defeats it is experiencing in the Middle East.

The number of alleged terrorists dealt with by Indonesian police in 2016 was more than double the previous year, as ISencouraged terror cells to carry out attacks beyond Syria.

An Indonesian policeman stands guard in front of a blast site in the aftermath of the January 14 Jakarta attacks. Photo: Getty Images

ASX bounces off early losses to clock new 2016 highs

Shares rallied off early losses to send the benchmark top 200 index to new 2016 highs and within a whisker of 5700 points, as strength in resources names and the big banks outweighed losses in listed property and utility sectors.

A poor lead from Wall St made for a difficult start to the second last trading session for the year, made even trickier as a host of listed trusts traded without the rights to their shareholder payouts.

Continued strength in commodity prices has buoyed the ASX. Photo: Rio Tinto

On this day | December 301703Tokyo hit by Earthquake; about 37,000 die

1924AstronomerEdwin Hubbleformally announces existence of other galactic systems at meeting of the American Astronomical Society

1992 Shane Warne takes 7-52 to lead Australian MCG win vs. West Indies

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Jul 18

Amazon calls 2016 holidays sales ‘the best-ever season’

Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You was one of the top songs played through Amazon’s Alexa devices this holiday period. Photo: Film Magic Amazon Tap is a portable battery-powered version of the older Echo, which responds to verbal commands such as “turn on the lights”. Photo: Amazon
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Global online giant Amazon has released sales data from the 2016 holiday season and the numbers and types of items bought will sober up any retailer who ate their aunt’s Christmas sherry trifle.

A staggering 1 billion-plus items were shipped worldwide over the Christmas break – termed the “holiday season” – from its Prime Now hubs and fulfilment centres, the Amazon distribution centres.

The group said its peak day was December 19, while December 23 was the biggest day ever for Prime Now deliveries worldwide, where members ordered three times more items compared to last year with one and two-hour delivery worldwide.

And to put fear into the hearts of electrical and technical device retailers, the main product was Amazon’s own Alexa devices. These are Echo speakers based on the Alexa’s voice-recognition software, they include Echo Dot, Amazon Echo, Fire TV Stick.

The sales, [although Amazon did not release dollar values], came on the back of Cyber Monday in November, where Amazon customers worldwide purchased about 46 electronics per second on a mobile device and about 36 toys per second on a mobile device.

In a report from Citi Australia, released in August, its author Craig Woolford, said it’s not “if, but when” Amazon arrives in Australia and he predicted it will hit retailers such as Harvey Norman and JB HI-FI very hard.

Amazon uses fulfilment centres – very large warehouses across the world – and is said to be looking for appropriate space in Australia. Industrial agents say Goodman Group’s Oakdale industrial estate could be a possibility.

To help its more than 200,000 full-time and seasonal staff, Amazon also has 45,000 robotics units working in more than 20 fulfilment centres.

And, according to Amazon’s latest figures released after Boxing Day, electrical items flew off the shelves.

The group said sales for Amazon’s devices including Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick, Fire tablet and Amazon Echo, were up more than nine times compared to last year’s holiday season and millions of Alexa devices sold worldwide this year.

No actual sales amounts were released, but the devices, such as the Echo Dot, sell for $US49.99, while tablets start at about $US120 per item. Audio and accessories included Panasonic ErgoFit in-ear earbud headphones, AmazonBasics six-outlet surge protector power strip, Sonos PLAY:1 compact wireless smart speaker for streaming music. Most watched

To ensure everyone could watch the most “requested holiday movies”, old favourites Home Alone and Elf, Amazon南京夜网 customers purchased enough 4K TVs to reach the peak of Mount Everest more than nine times.

One person that will be happy, following her break up with James Packer, is singer Mariah Carey, whose song, All I Want for Christmas Is You, was one of the top ones played through the Alexa device, along with Jingle Bells, the 1999-remaster by Frank Sinatra and Mariah Carey and Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano.

Amazon’s chief executive worldwide consumer, Jeff Wilke, said Echo and Echo Dot were the best-selling products across Amazon this year, and “we’re thrilled that millions of new customers will be introduced to Alexa as a result”.

“Despite our best efforts and ramped-up production, we still had trouble keeping them in stock. From turning on Christmas lights and playing holiday music to shopping for gifts and asking for help with cookie recipes, Alexa continues to get smarter every day,” Mr Wilke said.

According to Amazon, thanks to cooking shows on television, customers purchased enough KitchenAid mixers this holiday to make nearly 7.5 million cookies at once.

Customers purchased enough copies of Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection to play consecutively for more than 300 years.

Mr Wilke said if each Amazon南京夜网 customer who purchased Pokemon Sun and Moon this holiday spent at least an hour a day playing the game since its release, “our customers would have spent the equivalent of more than 24 thousand lunar cycles capturing Pokemon”.

The sporting minded, which many Australians are, were not left behind with Amazon customers buying enough golf balls this holiday that, if lined up, would equal the length of Pebble Beach golf course four times over, and enough running shoes to run 18,603 times around the globe.

Jewellery retailers are also under pressure with Amazon saying it sold 2.5 million watches – that is a watch purchased every 1.5 seconds this holiday season.

“Amazon南京夜网 customers purchased 10,451 carats of diamonds, which is equal to 6.5 Russian Kokoshnik tiaras, one of the Queen of England’s most famous tiaras,” Mr Wilke said.

The mining sector will be happy to know that Amazon南京夜网 customers also bought the weight of a “grizzly bear in gold and the weight of a rhinoceros in silver”.

The last Prime Now order delivered in time for Christmas was delivered at 11:59 pm on December 24 to a Prime member in Irvine, California, who was clearly feeling the effects of the season as it included a heated mattress pad, NyQuil and Afrin nasal spray.

However, perhaps in preparation for the usual tetchy family Christmas gatherings, an order was made from Virginia on December 24 for Venum Contender boxing gloves.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Jul 18

January 1 price rises and benefit cuts: what you need to know

Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, changed regulations and reduced benefits.They say life can change in an instant.
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Never is that more true than when the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Along with hangovers and dark circles under their eyes, Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, charges, changed regulations and reduced benefits.

Get set to pay more and receive less.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Pensioners

A shake-up of the test that determines whether people are eligible to receive the age pension, the disability support pension and the carers pension will mean reduced payments for more than 230,000 pensioners and payments ceasing altogether for about 90,000 more. Pensioners affected by the change should have already received a letter from Centrelink.

Some pensioners – about 170,000 – will actually receive a pension boost, because the government is lifting the total value of assets – cash, shares, investment properties – pensioners can own before their pension rate is reduced from the full rate. The family home remains excluded, as always.

But many more will lose out under the changes thanks to an increase in the rate at which pension payments are reduced once assets exceed the threshold value. Currently, for every $1000 of assets a pensioner owns above the asset threshold, their fortnightly pension payment is reduced by $1.50. This will increase to $3 on January 1 – returning it to where it was before the Howard government made it more generous in 2006.

Dental care

Three million children who live in families that receive Family Tax Benefit Part A will, from January 1, have their entitlement to free dental services capped at $700 over two years, down from $1000 previously. Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says only 30 per cent of children who are entitled to the payment actually use it, and the average claimed per patient is just $302. However, 8 per cent of children eligible for the subsidies are expected to be affected by the change – leaving about a quarter of a million kids worse off.

The new year also brings reduced funding for adult dental services, after the federal government announced just before Christmas that it would give the states just $107 million in funding each year for the next three years, down from $155 million this funding year. The Gillard government had originally pledged $391 million for the coming funding year.

The new year brings reduced funding for adult dental services. Photo: Quentin Jones

Minister Ley was unable to get the states to agree to her $1.7 billion, four-year, combined Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme and announced the reduced funding agreement just before Christmas instead. The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association says public dental services will be “severely compromised” as a result of the funding cuts and estimates 338,000 Australians will lose access to public dental services as a result.

Prescription drugs

The new year will herald higher co-payments for prescription drugs. The co-payment per script will rise to $6.30 for concession cardholders (up from $6.20) and to $38.80 for general patients (up from $38.30). A 2014 Coalition plan to increase the general co-payment by another $5 remains on ice however, one of several “zombie” measures in the federal budget that have yet to pass through Parliament.

But it is older Australians and frequent prescription users who will suffer the most in the new year as their free drugs safety net resets.

“There’s two ways people will pay more for drugs from January 1,” a spokesman for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Greg Turnbull, said.

“First, there will be an increase in the co-payments, which increase each year with inflation. And second, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, people who have been enjoying free prescriptions because they reached the safety net at some point during this year will start paying co-contributions again until they hit the safety net in 2017.”

Welfare crackdown

As part of the Coalition’s $6 billion omnibus savings bill, passed in September, people who have received welfare overpayments will start paying interest of 8 per cent on their debts from January 1, unless they are complying with a repayment plan.

People who owe money to Centrelink will also be able to be ordered not to leave the country until they pay, similar to arrangements in place to stop parents who skip child support payments from skipping the country.

January 1 also ushers in a host of new changes to welfare eligibility criteria, including that:

Fringe benefits received from employers will now be included in the income test for family assistance and youth payments (unless your employer is a not-for-profit);Child support payments will now be included in the income test for youth allowance;Age pensioners who move into aged care and rent out their former home will now have this rental income included when determining their age pension payments;New recipients of the carers allowance will lose an ability to have their payments backdated.New migrants who arrive under the family reunions channel will now need to serve a two-year waiting period before they qualify for income support payments.

Backpackers’ taxThe Turnbull government’s controversial backpackers’ tax will finally come into effect from January 1. People aged 18 to 30 who come to Australia as temporary working holidaymakers will start paying income tax of 15 cents from the first dollar they earn.

Previously, backpackers were taxed the same as Australian citizens, meaning they could earn up to $18,000 without paying tax. The Turnbull government’s May budget sought to align them to the tax treatment of non-residents, which is 32.5 cents from the first dollar they earn, but the government watered down the measure after a backlash from tourism and regional businesses.

Vocational education

Eradicating dodgy vocational educational providers is the aim of a revamped student loans scheme which comes into effect from January 1. The new VET Student Loans program will replace the old VET FEE-HELP scheme, under which loans increased from $26 million in 2009 to $2.9 billion last year as unscrupulous providers sought to sign up vulnerable students to courses of questionable value.

Students enrolling in vocational education institutions this year will need to double check with the Australian Skills Quality Authority that their institution remains an eligible provider, or they will be ineligible for a student loan this year. There will also be a new cap on loan amounts and stronger criteria for which courses are eligible.

The cost of a new passport will increase from January 1.

Passports

Bad luck for those who have booked holidays but not yet arranged their passports. From January 1, the cost of each new passport will increase by $20 for adults and $10 for children and seniors. The fee for priority processing of passport applications will increase by an even heftier $54.

Nannies pilot

Due to an overwhelming lack of uptake, the government’s pilot program to pay subsidies to families who employ private nannies will cease to accept new families from January 1. The government booked a saving of $170 million in its December mid-year budget update by winding back the number of places set aside and closing the scheme to new families from January 1.

Asthma drugs

Good news for an estimated 370 severe asthma sufferers who will benefit from the listing of a new medicine, Nucala, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from January 1. Previously, patients with this severe form of asthma would have to pay $21,000 each year to access the new treatment, which involves monthly injections. The listing will cost $25 million over four years.

Youth allowance

Every little bit helps. About 1 million recipients of Austudy, Youth Allowance, Carer Allowance and young recipients of the disability support pension will wake up to a few extra dollars a week thanks to the regular annual indexation of their payments.

Youth Allowance recipients will get between $2.40 and $5.70 extra a fortnight. Austudy recipients will get between $4.30 and $5.70 a fortnight. Payments increase with inflation, rather than the more generous measure of average wages growth which pensioners enjoy.

Transport

Opal fares remain frozen until July, but the cost of some other trips will rise.

Tolls will increase between 1¢ and 8¢ for cars using the Hills M2 Motorway, M5 South-West Motorway, Westlink M7, Eastern Distributor, Cross City Tunnel and Lane Cove Tunnel.

An increase of between 4¢ and $1.89 will also apply to trucks using these roads, as part of the regular quarterly adjustment to tolls.

Trips on the privately contracted Manly Fast Ferry service will rise by around 10¢ per trip as part of an agreement for regular annual inflation increases.

The vehicle tax for light vehicles will rise by between $3 and $10, depending on weight and whether it is for private or business use. Other registration fees and charges remain the same.

Solar bonus scheme

The NSW Solar Bonus Scheme will end at midnight on December 31, meaning drastically reduced payments for solar panel owners.

The scheme was only supposed to attract 42,000 households, but 147,000 households ended up signing up for the scheme which earned them 60¢ or 20¢ for every kilowatt hour of power they supplied to the grid.

The new year will see these “feed in tariffs” earned by solar panel owners reduced to just 6¢ for AGL and EnergyAustralia customers, 10¢ for Origin customers and 12¢ from smaller players like Enova Energy.

Foreign property investors

The Baird government’s new Foreign Investor Land Tax Surcharge will come into force from January 1.

Foreign investors who own residential real estate in NSW will be slapped with a new and ongoing additional surcharge of 0.75 per cent of the unimproved value of their land, in addition to the usual land tax.

There will be no tax-free threshold, meaning if a property has an unimproved land value of $1 million, the foreign owner will, from January 1, pay a foreign investor surcharge of $7500 per year.

Land tax bills

There is some relief in sight for investment property owners, however, as land tax thresholds are increased from January 1. The threshold at which property investors must start paying land tax will increase from an unimproved land value of $482,000 to a value of $549,000. The premium threshold will increase from $2,947,000 to $3,357,000.

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Jul 18

Letters to the Editor

Republic debate: Bob Hawke says abolish state governments and think big to fix the nation.Recycled ideaWE’VE heard it before; the recycled idea of abolishing the States and running everything from Canberra.
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The recent remarks by ex-PM Hawke and ex-Premier Kennett are in agreement that we are over governed by the States and too many local councils, too many politicians and too many regulations at every level.

But would abolishing the States make us better off?

We’ve seen council amalgamations, accompanied by accelerating costs when we were told it would be cheaper.

Sure we’re over regulated, and that needs to be addressed at every level.

Politicians seem to delight in bringing in more and more regulations and taxes and they would do that still if ALL was run from Canberra.

When that proved a failure would the next suggestion be World Governance? Some would like that idea too.

It was in Nazi Germany that Hitler abolished the States and ran everything from Berlin.

Why should we think about going down the same road?

Where do these people get their ideas?

Are they just doing it for publicity and cause end of year controversy?

Jay Nauss

Glen Aplin

Abolishing Federation Is Not the AnswerSo, Bob Hawke wants to abolish the States (SMH DECEMBER 28 2016)without any thought to the part they play in protecting the democracy of the individual.

Admittedly, our political leaders seem to act more as dictators than participants in one of the world’s great democracies and undoubtedlyHawke is right when he infers that we are over-governed.

There are too many politicians with too many staff not doing enough to serve the communities they represent.

With most politicians supporting a republic but with little appetite for constitutional change amongst Australians in general and with far more important things on their minds, it is no wonder that most people consider their political representatives to be out of touch.

The answer, however, is not to abolish the States but rather to lessen the incessant round of quarrelsome party politics that are undermining our Federation.

It is time that all politicians realised that they are there not primarily to do the bidding of their political parties but to represent and to serve the people first.

Australia has, in theory at least, a decentralised polity which is a strength and a considerable one at that.

Were the States to be abolished the result would be a hugely increased centralised authoritarian bureaucracy in Canberra.

The government would be even more imperious than at present and even more out of touch with the people than their State representatives are.

The individual would be greatly diminished democratically whereas under our federal system the individual is provided with some measure of localisation and accountability..

Bob Hawke’s dream appears to be of a monopolistic bureaucratically red-taped monolith driven by ideologues with visions for some sort of Utopia which had a better place in the Marxist regimes of yesteryear.

Under the Hawke plan, the whole Constitution would have to be revised with the semi-independence of states obliterated but, of course, it was always Labor’s plan to increase local government, abolish the States and Federation itself as a pathway to bringing on a republic.

The only problem for Labor – and Hawke – is that the people simply won’t put up with it.

Philip Benwell

National Chair

Australian Monarchist League

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Jul 18

Christmas Day drug bust the latest in a string of blunders by syndicate

Christmas Day drug bust the latest in a string of blunders by syndicate Police raid the dinghy as it docked at the tiny Parsley Bay boat ramp on the Central Coast. Photo: NSW Police Media
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Photo: NSW Police Media

The Dalrymplye fishing vessel is raided at the Brooklyn Marina. Photo: NSW Police Media

A boat at Double Bay. Photo: NSW Police Media

Photo: NSW Police Media

Photo: NSW Police Media

Photo: NSW Police Media

A boat at Double Bay. Photo: NSW Police Media

Sports bags, allegedly full of cocaine, intercepted at the Parsley Bay boat ramp. Photo: NSW Police Media

Police arrest a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

The men were aged between 29 and 63 years old and have all been refused bail. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Photo: NSW Police Media

AFP officers stand guard over some of the 500kilo cocaine seized during the Christmas Day bust. Picture: Kate Geraghty

Police arrest a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

AFP officers stand guard over some of the 500kilo cocaine seized during the Christmas Day bust. Picture: Kate Geraghty

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

Police arrested a number of alleged drug traffickers on Christmas Day. Photo: NSW Police

AFP officers stand guard over some of the 500kilo cocaine seized during the Christmas Day bust. Picture: Kate Geraghty

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Jul 18

Photos of the weekDecember 30

Photos of the week | December 30 Christmas 2016. Pictured: Peter Ward, 9, holding Ashlea, 7 wks, Isabelle, 5, and Jacob, 7, holding Imogen, 7 wks, all celebrating Christmas in the Botanic Gardens. Picture: Amy Paton
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Madi Ratcliffe. Pictured: Warrnambool hockey star Madi Ratcliffe is home for Christmas before heading back to Perth to train for championships. Picture: Amy Paton

Warrnambool Grasscourt Open. Pictured: James O’Sullivan slices his return in the 14 and under game. Picture: Amy Paton

King Cole Fruit Supply burglary. Pictured: Crime scene officer Shannon Kavenagh grabs supplies from the police van for the inspection. Picture: Amy Paton

Swimming. Pictured: Warrnambool swimmer Blake Turner is getting ready for the Swimming Victoria country championships. Picture: Amy Paton

Windy weather. Pictured: A large tree branch has fallen down near Kings College. Picture: Amy Paton

Lost and Found Warrnambool. Pictured: Property officer and Leading Senior Constable Deane Owen with multiple years worth of lost property, including hundreds of car keys, a scooter and a skateboard. Picture: Amy Paton

Holiday Campers. Pictured: 10 families have been camping in 10 adjacent campsites together at Shipwreck Bay Holiday Park at Lake Pertobe for the past 27 years. Picture: Amy Paton

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Narelle and Jason Hill from Minhamite soak up the sunshine at Penshurst Racecourse on Boxing Day. Picture: Peta Jolley

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Three generations of Edwards – Phil, Alan and Stephen Edwards – enjoy the day out at Penshurst Races. Picture: Peta Jolley

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Warrnambool’s Sinaed Finck won the ladies fashions on the field competition for the second consecutive year. Picture: Peta Jolley

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Bill Abrahams, from Warrnambool, attended his first races. Mr Abrahams won the mens fashions on the field title. Picture: Peta Jolley

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Jul 18

Why Carrie Fisher’s Leia deserves a place among the Disney Princesses

Moana isn’t yet in the official pantheon of Disney princesses, but she’s typical of where they are heading. Photo: Disney Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, with Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
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Creepy though it is, there’s something fitting in Carrie Fisher making a digitally face-lifted guest appearance at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I say fitting because in that moment Leia finally takes her place among the pantheon of Disney Princesses she has arguably helped shape.

Some readers may find that an outrageous statement on at least two counts. First, the term “Disney Princess” is generally reserved for the studio’s animated mythic royals. And second, it’s doubtful that a spot in their ranks was what George Lucas had in mind when he created the character of Princess Leia Organa, hero of the Rebellion, 40-odd years ago.

But times change, and princesses change with them – and even a slow-moving monolith such as Disney has to try to keep up.

Officially, there are 11 Disney Princesses, spread across three eras. Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950) and Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora (1959) are from the so-called “classic” era, typified by weak white women waiting for a prince to wake them or bring them fancy footwear and thus rescue them from a life more ordinary.

The “renaissance” phase gave us The Little Mermaid’s Ariel (1989), Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin’s Jasmine (1992), and the title characters of Pocahontas (1995) and Mulan (1998). More ethnically diverse, these women were generally a lot more active even if they were still largely waiting for their man.

In the modern era, there’s Tiana from The Princess and the Frog (2009), the Rapunzel of Tangled (2010) and the bow-and-arrow-wielding Merida of Brave (2012), strong-willed women who imagine a destiny that might include, but definitely isn’t limited to, marriage.

There’s also Elsa and Anna, the sisters at the heart of the studio’s most successful animated movie of all time, Frozen (2013). Hailed for their independence of spirit and the fact their great love is for each other rather than some wet Prince Charming, the sisters are honorary, though not official, members of the studio’s Princess hierarchy.

And now we have the heroine of Moana (2016), the ocean-faring daughter of a Pacific Island chief who sets out to restore environmental balance and rekindle her people’s pioneering instincts, with the putative aid of a god who more often than not needs her help. Her place in the canon has not yet been confirmed but she sure looks like a Disney Princess in the new mould.

But “new mould” is the crucial thing here. Post-renaissance, Disney’s princesses have steadily traded passivity for action, predestination for self-determination, hearth and home for the wider world beyond. Or, to put it more bluntly, they’re a lot less freakin’ useless than they were.

There are lots of academic studies that plot the evolution of the Disney princess, from being “thin, graceful, young, submissive, and attractive to romantic suitors of the opposite sex”, as one puts it, to something more complex (albeit invariably still young, thin and attractive). There’s a consensus that “Disney movies remain some of the most influential sources of gender role images for children”, even if the stereotypical Disney princess – “innocent, beautiful and passive” – is no longer seen as a positive role model.

Enter Princess Leia.

She wasn’t the first feisty woman on screen – film noir is full of them, and if you really want to see old-school tough broads in action, check out Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge in the delirious Johnny Guitar (1954) – but she may have been the first one made for an audience of kids and teens.

Of course, she didn’t start life as a Disney character, but that’s what she has become, since the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $US4 billion or so (George Lucas took half as stock in Disney, so in reality he pocketed a lot more than that). And while Lucas complained last December that he had sold his “kids” to “white slavers”, in some respects Disney has set Leia free – by showing her as a mature woman, and by granting her a legacy as role model for younger ones.

The pantheon of Disney princesses (absent: Merida of Brave). Photo: Disney

Much as she has been heralded as a breakthrough action heroine, the Leia of Star Wars (1977) was also a teenage boy fantasy – one who didn’t even wear a bra because, Lucas told Fisher, “there is no underwear in space”. Ridiculous hairbuns aside, the abiding image of her is in a metallic bikini, on the floor and chained around the neck to the gross, salivating form of Jabba the Hutt in The Return of the Jedi (1983). Liberated? Not exactly.

But Leia was more than just a fanboy fantasy. She was undeniably smart, strong, resourceful. She had a love interest in Han Solo, but she was her own woman. She sometimes needed to be rescued, but then who in this saga didn’t? She was, above all, a commander.

Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) with Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi (1983). Photo: Lucasfilm

(For all the character’s independence, it was a bitter irony never lost on Fisher that she got no cut of the vast merchandising revenues from the films, because Lucas had her sign away the rights to her likeness when she was just 19. “Every time I look in the mirror,” she bitterly joked in a speech at an awards dinner for him in 2009, “I have to send you a cheque for a couple of bucks.”)

Maybe it’s a coincidence that Disney princesses began to display some of those Leia-like traits in the second wave, and many more of them in the third, but I can’t help think she forced their hand at least a little. At any rate, the studio was not entirely deaf and blind to the fact the world had moved on, and that many women and girls – and, hell, even some men and boys – didn’t find all that much to admire in the weakling princesses of old. 

There’s no doubting, though, the influence of Leia on the Star Wars films Disney has given us so far. Both are driven by female action heroes, for whom romance is not a central concern and barely even a peripheral one. Young, thin, attractive? Yes, Rey (Daisy Ridley) of The Force Awakens and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) in Rogue One are all that, but they are also strong, strong-willed, decisive.

They may not be actual princesses (well, not that we know of), but they are clearly descended from one.

Princess Leia, we salute you. You deserve a place in the pantheon.

Karl Quinn is on facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on twitter @karlkwin

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Jul 18

January 1 price rises and benefit cuts: what you need to know

Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, changed regulations and reduced benefits. Photo: Dominic LorrimerThey say life can change in an instant.
Nanjing Night Net

Never is that more true than when the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Along with hangovers and dark circles under their eyes, Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, charges, changed regulations and reduced benefits.

Get set to pay more and receive less.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Pensioners

A shake-up of the test that determines whether people are eligible to receive the age pension, the disability support pension and the carers pension will mean reduced payments for more than 230,000 pensioners and payments ceasing altogether for about 90,000 more. Pensioners affected by the change should have already received a letter from Centrelink.

Some pensioners – about 170,000 – will actually receive a pension boost, because the government is lifting the total value of assets – cash, shares, investment properties – pensioners can own before their pension rate is reduced from the full rate. The family home remains excluded, as always.

But many more will lose out under the changes thanks to an increase in the rate at which pension payments are reduced once assets exceed the threshold value. Currently, for every $1000 of assets a pensioner owns above the asset threshold, their fortnightly pension payment is reduced by $1.50. This will increase to $3 on January 1 – returning it to where it was before the Howard government made it more generous in 2006.

Dental care

Three million children who live in families that receive Family Tax Benefit Part A will, from January 1, have their entitlement to free dental services capped at $700 over two years, down from $1000 previously. Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says only 30 per cent of children who are entitled to the payment actually use it, and the average claimed per patient is just $302. However, 8 per cent of children eligible for the subsidies are expected to be affected by the change – leaving about a quarter of a million kids worse off.

The new year also brings reduced funding for adult dental services, after the federal government announced just before Christmas that it would give the states just $107 million in funding each year for the next three years, down from $155 million this funding year. The Gillard government had originally pledged $391 million for the coming funding year.

The new year brings reduced funding for adult dental services. Photo: Quentin Jones

Minister Ley was unable to get the states to agree to her $1.7 billion, four-year, combined Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme and announced the reduced funding agreement just before Christmas instead. The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association says public dental services will be “severely compromised” as a result of the funding cuts and estimates 338,000 Australians will lose access to public dental services as a result.

Prescription drugs

The new year will herald higher co-payments for prescription drugs. The co-payment per script will rise to $6.30 for concession cardholders (up from $6.20) and to $38.80 for general patients (up from $38.30). A 2014 Coalition plan to increase the general co-payment by another $5 remains on ice however, one of several “zombie” measures in the federal budget that have yet to pass through Parliament.

But it is older Australians and frequent prescription users who will suffer the most in the new year as their free drugs safety net resets.

“There’s two ways people will pay more for drugs from January 1,” a spokesman for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Greg Turnbull, said.

“First, there will be an increase in the co-payments, which increase each year with inflation. And second, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, people who have been enjoying free prescriptions because they reached the safety net at some point during this year will start paying co-contributions again until they hit the safety net in 2017.”

Welfare crackdown

As part of the Coalition’s $6 billion omnibus savings bill, passed in September, people who have received welfare overpayments will start paying interest of 8 per cent on their debts from January 1, unless they are complying with a repayment plan.

People who owe money to Centrelink will also be able to be ordered not to leave the country until they pay, similar to arrangements in place to stop parents who skip child support payments from skipping the country.

January 1 also ushers in a host of new changes to welfare eligibility criteria, including that: Fringe benefits received from employers will now be included in the income test for family assistance and youth payments (unless your employer is a not-for-profit);Child support payments will now be included in the income test for youth allowance;Age pensioners who move into aged care and rent out their former home will now have this rental income included when determining their age pension payments;New recipients of the carers allowance will lose an ability to have their payments backdated.New migrants who arrive under the family reunions channel will now need to serve a two-year waiting period before they qualify for income support payments.Backpackers’ tax

The Turnbull government’s controversial backpackers’ tax will finally come into effect from January 1. People aged 18 to 30 who come to Australia as temporary working holidaymakers will start paying income tax of 15 cents from the first dollar they earn.

Previously, backpackers were taxed the same as Australian citizens, meaning they could earn up to $18,000 without paying tax. The Turnbull government’s May budget sought to align them to the tax treatment of non-residents, which is 32.5 cents from the first dollar they earn, but the government watered down the measure after a backlash from tourism and regional businesses.

Vocational education

Eradicating dodgy vocational educational providers is the aim of a revamped student loans scheme which comes into effect from January 1. The new VET Student Loans program will replace the old VET FEE-HELP scheme, under which loans increased from $26 million in 2009 to $2.9 billion last year as unscrupulous providers sought to sign up vulnerable students to courses of questionable value.

Students enrolling in vocational education institutions this year will need to double check with the Australian Skills Quality Authority that their institution remains an eligible provider, or they will be ineligible for a student loan this year. There will also be a new cap on loan amounts and stronger criteria for which courses are eligible.

The cost of a new passport will increase from January 1.

Passports

Bad luck for those who have booked holidays but not yet arranged their passports. From January 1, the cost of each new passport will increase by $20 for adults and $10 for children and seniors. The fee for priority processing of passport applications will increase by an even heftier $54.

Nannies pilot

Due to an overwhelming lack of uptake, the government’s pilot program to pay subsidies to families who employ private nannies will cease to accept new families from January 1. The government booked a saving of $170 million in its December mid-year budget update by winding back the number of places set aside and closing the scheme to new families from January 1.

Asthma drugs

Good news for an estimated 370 severe asthma sufferers who will benefit from the listing of a new medicine, Nucala, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from January 1. Previously, patients with this severe form of asthma would have to pay $21,000 each year to access the new treatment, which involves monthly injections. The listing will cost $25 million over four years.

Youth allowance

Every little bit helps. About 1 million recipients of Austudy, Youth Allowance, Carer Allowance and young recipients of the disability support pension will wake up to a few extra dollars a week thanks to the regular annual indexation of their payments.

Youth Allowance recipients will get between $2.40 and $5.70 extra a fortnight. Austudy recipients will get between $4.30 and $5.70 a fortnight. Payments increase with inflation, rather than the more generous measure of average wages growth which pensioners enjoy.

Opal fares will remain frozen until July. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Transport

Opal fares remain frozen until July, but the cost of some other trips will rise.

Tolls will increase between 1¢ and 8¢ for cars using the Hills M2 Motorway, M5 South-West Motorway, Westlink M7, Eastern Distributor, Cross City Tunnel and Lane Cove Tunnel.

An increase of between 4¢ and $1.89 will also apply to trucks using these roads, as part of the regular quarterly adjustment to tolls.

Trips on the privately contracted Manly Fast Ferry service will rise by around 10¢ per trip as part of an agreement for regular annual inflation increases.

The vehicle tax for light vehicles will rise by between $3 and $10, depending on weight and whether it is for private or business use. Other registration fees and charges remain the same.

Solar bonus scheme

The NSW Solar Bonus Scheme will end at midnight on December 31, meaning drastically reduced payments for solar panel owners.

The scheme was only supposed to attract 42,000 households, but 147,000 households ended up signing up for the scheme which earned them 60¢ or 20¢ for every kilowatt hour of power they supplied to the grid.

The new year will see these “feed in tariffs” earned by solar panel owners reduced to just 6¢ for AGL and EnergyAustralia customers, 10¢ for Origin customers and 12¢ from smaller players like Enova Energy.

Foreign property investors

The Baird government’s new Foreign Investor Land Tax Surcharge will come into force from January 1.

Foreign investors who own residential real estate in NSW will be slapped with a new and ongoing additional surcharge of 0.75 per cent of the unimproved value of their land, in addition to the usual land tax.

There will be no tax-free threshold, meaning if a property has an unimproved land value of $1 million, the foreign owner will, from January 1, pay a foreign investor surcharge of $7500 per year.

Land tax bills

There is some relief in sight for investment property owners, however, as land tax thresholds are increased from January 1. The threshold at which property investors must start paying land tax will increase from an unimproved land value of $482,000 to a value of $549,000. The premium threshold will increase from $2,947,000 to $3,357,000.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Jul 18

2016 was the year of the celebrity open letter, personal essay

Call them open letters, call them personal essays, call them whatever you want: this year has seen more female celebrities express their thoughts in 1000+ words of passionate letters and punctuation marks than ever before.
Nanjing Night Net

From equal pay, to racism, to what was or was not currently inside their uterus, 2016 was the year famous women ditched publicist statements to find their voice in long-form pieces.

Here are 10 of the best:

1. Jennifer Aniston: ‘For The Record’

Huffington Post, July 12

Aniston responded to over a decade’s worth of pregnancy rumours.

“The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time… but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children. In this last boring news cycle about my personal life there have been mass shootings, wildfires, major decisions by the Supreme Court, an upcoming election, and any number of more newsworthy issues that “journalists” could dedicate their resources towards.”

2. Kim Kardashian West: ‘Happy International Women’s Day’

Own website, March 8

After a (censored) nude selfie saw the reality star face steep criticism, she cleared the air with a long-read.

“It’s 2016. The body-shaming and slut-shaming – it’s like, enough is enough. I will not live my life dictated by the issues you have with my sexuality. You be you and let me be me.”

​3. Rose McGowan: ‘Open Letter To Scott Baio And Those Like Him’

The Talkhouse, July 21

McGowan laid into Happy Days actor Scott Baio after he called Hillary Clinton the C-word.

“If you can’t open your mind, at least stop hurting us, because if you slander one woman, you slander all.”

4. Renee Zellweger: ‘We Can Do Better’

Huffington Post, August 5

The Bridget Jones actor denied she had been under the knife, and questioned how the social implications of the false story.

“The ‘eye surgery’ tabloid story itself did not matter, but it became the catalyst for my inclusion in subsequent legitimate news stories about self-acceptance and women succumbing to social pressure to look and age a certain way. In my opinion, that tabloid speculations become the subject of mainstream news reporting does matter.”

5. Lady Gaga: ‘Head Stuck In A Cycle I Look Off And I Stare’

Own charity’s website, December 8

After revealing she had been diagnosed with PTSD, Lady Gaga penned a “personal letter” to reveal what the condition meant for her.

“I believe that the most inexpensive and perhaps the best medicine in the world is words. Kind words… positive words… words that help people who feel ashamed of an invisible illness to overcome their shame and feel free. This is how I and we can begin to heal. I am starting today, because secrets keep you sick.”

​6. Meghan Markle: I’m More Than An ‘Other’

Elle UK, December 12

The Suits star, who recently made headlines after striking up a relationship with Prince Harry, reflected on her mixed-race identity.

“My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. ‘Because that’s how you look, Meghan,’ she said. I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn’t tick a box. I left my identity blank – a question mark, an absolute incomplete – much like how I felt.”

7. Lily Allen: ‘Why the Press Want to Stop Celebrities Like Me Talking About the Migrant Crisis’

Vice, October 26

Allen hit back at British tabloids who described her as a “sobbing luvvie” during a visit to a refugee camp in France.

“The furore about whether or not some refugees may have lied about their ages is not really about whether these refugees can enter the country; it’s about creating the narrative that people trying to come here aren’t asking for our help, but trying to dupe us, take advantage of the system.”

8. Victoria Beckham: ‘Game Changers’

Vogue Australia, November issue

The pop star turned fashion designer was one of several successful women to write first-person pieces about their lives.

“I have a great team and I have a husband who is incredibly supportive. We support each other, and this is about being good partners. When I am away working, David makes sure he is here, and when he is away working I prioritise being at home.”

9. Mila Kunis: ‘You’ll Never Work In This Town Again’

A Plus, November 2

Kunis reflected on the time a director told her she would never work again after refusing to pose semi-nude for a men’s magazine, and the gender biases that exist within Hollywood workplaces.

“Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender. And always, I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt; maybe they knew more, maybe they had more experience, maybe there was something I was missing. I taught myself that to succeed as a woman in this industry I had to play by the rules of the boy’s club. But the older I got and the longer I worked in this industry, the more I realised that it’s bullshit! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen.” 

10. Björk: Untitled

Facebook, December 21

After being criticised for moving around too much in her DJ sets by reviewers, the Icelandic singer posted an explosive response on her Facebook page, saying no man had ever received the same criticism and alleging critics disliked her because she wrote songs about things other than “boyfriends”.

“Eat your Bechtel Test heart out.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.